Michael Stephens – Web 2.0 and Libraries: best practices for social software

Here’s the notes from the afternoon session of Michael Stephen’s visit to Melbourne. Over 70 librarian, mostly not all from public libraries were presented with an interesting and informative session, with plenty of inspiration to take back to their libraries.

Michael Stephens Michael Stephens

World is changing, especially in the last few years.  Its getting smaller, collaboration is happening on a scale that would not have been possible before.  It has changed the way we comunicate.

Web 2.0 is open, decentralised and participatory. Commonalities are open, participatrory, tags, comments, RSS, APIs.

Library job descriptions are also changing as a result. Just look at recent job advertisements – these positions did not exist a few years ago, because the technologies didn’t exist.  This is one way our profession is responding to these changes.

Open Source software is growing fast – it levels the playing field a bit, but requires staff and other resources to use and manage.  eg. Open Office, Inkscape, Trillian and Pidgin.  Open Office duplicates the functions of Microsoft Office (offer to ours users as an alternative?).

Surveying best practices:

Blogs – how many libraries have blogs?  Worth thinking about adopting if you don’t already have one.  Its a software tool, a content management system which is organised and archived chronologically by date.  With a blog, its all automatic without having to go through bureaucracy.  Newest news is at the top of the page, where your users eyes are going to land first. All you need is software, server space (can be hosted) and some HTML, time to blog and something to say.  What to say? – what’s new, programs and materials, new resources, conference reports – some librarians put their conference notes on their library’s public blog.  Blogging can be used to promote your content, ie databases, its fast easy and cheap and you can promote conversation.  Lamson Library uses Scriblio to get their Web Opac out in a blog.

Best practices – look around at other library blog and check out what features of them that you like. Find your voice/mission – what is your goal, how do you want to say it, listen to your users responses. Focus on content – configure it then let it work for you, focus on interesting content, reach out by covering users interests. Design – make it seamless between your library website and blog, make sure its always usable, keep your software current.  Share authorship – spread out the blogging, agree on voice and mission.  Post often and be succinct – keep it simple, make it printable. Have a style guide and train your staff to blog – give them help sheets on tagging etc.  Make sure they have time to do it!  Incorporate the blog into your site as well as possible and link to the catalogue as often as you can – link it to your homepage. Be transparent – blog your projects and plans, listen and respond to your users comments.  Use the blog as a platform for videos, images, RSS feeds,news, customize widgets.

For Librarian Bloggers – cite your sources and links, post often but have something to say, invest time, post your passions, blog nice, learn about your blog application – spam filters are necessary, information feeds in, flickr images fed in, polls etc.

Blogs can create the voice of the library, administrators should be involved, enable comments, participate!

Podcasting – easy to create with some simple open source tools ie. Audacity (OSS), iTunes, Garageband. Podcasts are syndicated via RSS – search iTunes for libraries. Kankakee Public Library podcasts their author visits.  All you need is a computer, Audacity and a microphone.

Best practices – use free tools like Audacity, involve staff who are interested and capable, monitor time and use (be sure you are getting ROI), podcast news, speakers, stories and more, current awareness, offer a place for others to try it!  Give users a place to record their own podcast!  or some other form of studio (ie video etc).

RSS – take content from one place and have it available in another place. Some ILMS offer RSS feeds on new additions to the catalogue – ie. books, videos/DVDs, audio etc.  RSS feeds can be the most time consuming thing you can learn about – saves you having to visit different blogs, you can use an RSS aggregator to have the content delivered to you.  With RSS you can keep up to date and put your library content in other locations.  Hennepin hacked their catalogue to provide RSS feeds for user generated searches – click through and place holds.  RSS has taken the place of SDI. eg. RSS feed of animal books on RSPCA website.

Best practices – decide if you want to build a portal or provide RSS feeds – train staff and users, ask vendors for feeds, develop a policy of displaying RSS on your website. Have a what is this for RSS on your website and embed the Common Craft videos from YouTube.

Wikis – an easy web page.  Mostly WYSIWYG, but some need basic coding (related to HTML). SJCPL found that most people were using local content more, so when they revised and created their subject wikis, those are the heading they retained. Don’t even have to use the word wiki in its use.

Best practices – play with a wiki (ie. PBWiki), monitor changes to the wiki, use it in classes and instruction.  Policy manuals, group edits on a report are common library uses.  SJCPL had a no wiki, where they recorded when they said no to users.  Each month they were reviewed and analysed to see where policy changes might be of use.

Instant messaging – usually text, but can be voice or video. All IM systems have a presence awareness system. “Faster IM” Computer in Libraries 2006 Stephens, M. “It can be cost effective means for any library to have a virtual reference presence in virtual spaces where our users already live!”  FASTER – Flow, ask questions, software, training, ease of use, return on investment (is high).  Meebo allows you to access multiple IM accounts via an online interface, or insert a widget into your webpage and allow users to IM you without an IM address (library has to have one).  Meebo benefits – no viruses, multiple services at once, voicemail for the web.

Best practices – promote the service, add you IM to your publicity, use a consistent naming scheme for all clients, use away messages effectively, use all your resources to answer questions.

Make IM part of your policy – fold it in to the reference desk duties.   People are usually happy to wait when the library is busy.

Flickr – a way of putting a human face on the library (photos). Another example of a social network, enabling tags, comments and being fed into other sites via links, widgets etc. Can use a flickr set for a library tour – including behind the scenes.

Best practices – allow flickr to be accessed on your public computers, tag-note-comment, create a useful profile page for your library, tell stories, make the library human,capture events-buildings, speakers, be mindful of little people etc.  Use it to be out there – experiment with Flickr toys too!

The Big Picture – best practices for social software
Meet the mission – convey the mission.  Ground your use of social software in the mission and vision of your library.  Use it to further the library mission and to meet your long range plan. (Maraine Valley College podcast page)

Prototype – great for roadblock builders, use it for education and planning, it demonstrates a need. Create a sandbox and get staff to play with it.  Use Ning to create a social network. (do it at State level for our library sector?).

Comments – enable it, moderate if needed, participate and ask vendors to give us this functionality.

Invite participation – allow comments, offer RSS feeds, aks surveys to do something – surveys, polls etc.

Give physical services a virtual space – ie. give the book club a blog, do an audio tour of the library.

Create social spaces for real time access to the tools – ImaginOn – Studio I for animation, make stations available for podcasting, video creation, blogging.

Be human tell stories – we have great stories to tell in libraries.  ie. Storypalooza – Gail Borden Library  YouTube contest – Denver Public Library.

Replace or remove outdated methods – NetFlix, Book Swim (mail delivery of items).  Topeka and Shawnee County Library mails holds to users – have a budget line for this.

Admin buy-in and use is PRICELESS.  Josie Parker at AADL and Louise Berry at Darien both blog.  But Staff buy in makes it HAPPEN!  Getting staff buy in can be helped by a Learning 2.0 program.  Also LISTEN to your staff and get their buyin.
Extra info coming from questions:

Sample policies may be available through Web Junction or the Library Success Wiki.

Seed your social sight with entries or comments to set the tone.

Michael says the future of our catalogues will incorporate both formal library subject headings as well as users tags.

Need to seriously consider how we want our presence to be available on the converged device ie. mobile phone.  iPhone is allowing normal web page browsing, next generation of phones should be the same.

Cross promotion between neighbouring facilities – Dutch example of library having recipe of the month and food market across the road displaying the ingredients for that recipe.

1 comment

  1. Thanks Anne,

    Appreciate the comment and compliment.


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